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Your Doctor is No Super Hero

I say this title somewhat tongue-in-cheek, with mixed feelings, but it is beyond the shadow of a doubt that your physician is NOT a super hero.

There was a time, not so long ago, when physicians were members of a revered profession.  We were respected and looked up to.  Individuals looked for our guidance and followed it [blindly].  Sadly, this still happens more than it should with increasingly negative results.  The days of dietary and lifestyle recommendations are long gone from the general medical office.  Who’s got the time?  Not to mention that your insurance doesn’t pay for that extra time required.

While I throw myself into this mix of physician giants such as Hippocrates, Galen and Sir William Osler, I am not even in the same league, let alone the same ballpark, as these greats. It is quite humbling to read the history of medicine and see where we have come from and how far off course we have strayed.  The founding principles of western medicine were established thousands of years ago and were based on our environmental, emotional and spiritual  influences (i.e. our diet, how we lived, etc).  As a practicing member in this field, however,  I cannot actually say that I have ever experienced that era of medicine until I entered the arena of Functional Medicine.  Fortunately, I am not old enough to have experienced the admiration and respect paid to those old time physicians (well depicted in the likes of the TV doctor Marcus Welby, MD – Yes, I am that old)…  I have heard stories of doctors of olde telling their patients to focus on dietary changes for their medical condition (even if they were outright wrong, they at least tried), or to exercise more, before pulling out a prescription pad and adding to the list of the patient’s ills.  Despite the mammoth quantities of pharmaceuticals now pouring out into the world, it does not seem to me like we are a healthier population.  Something seems to have gone terribly wrong!

 

A superhero doctor is looking up, isolated on grey background

 

To be clear: I do not think that physicians have ever deserved a higher adulation than any other profession [well, maybe some professions].  We are mere mortals.  Many, over the centuries, have chosen this path to truly help people.  I, for one, am a firm believer in the Hippocratic Oath. I strive to ease discomfort, make accurate diagnoses (within my conventional model of medicine that I must abide by, with the occasional side-step), and offer the best possible care that I can while doing what is in the best interest of the patient.  This is all while working against the true constraints applied to us by things such as the ever-growing government regulations, fear-mongering from malpractice  attorneys, business-minded administrators, insurance companies, and so on.  Many physicians now need to spend more time charting [i.e. documenting why they are doing what they are doing] than they do with the actual patient.  This is the paradox that I have been struggling with over the past several years and that ultimately led me to pursue a career in Functional & Integrative Medicine.

 

So why do physicians deserve blame?  It is, after all, large medical professional organizations (governed by physicians) that provide us with the dietary & pharmaceutical recommendations that have contributed to an epidemic increase in conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, Stroke, several forms of cancer, autoimmunity and so much more.  You’ll know who they are –  just follow the initials, or look on a cereal box or in the pages of a health magazine.  The government agencies that promote these recommendations all have physician advisors and board members.  There is a certain level of credibility given to these physicians that is somewhat undeserved {in my opinion] and they have quite often accomplished little more than bench research, have been long-standing esteemed members of the organization that they represent and made connections with the right people in high places.

It was only within the last century that physicians promoted the health benefits of smoking cigarettes and many actually smoked in their offices, some even while seeing patients.

 

Drunk Surgeon

 

The physicians that are practicing in their offices, the ER and the OR are doing everything they can just to get by. They are fed information by pharmaceutical reps [along with some free lunches], articles from medical journals [written by the aforementioned organizational leaders] and through required annual continuing medical education in the form of conferences, forums, webinars and audio-tapes [also largely provided or edited by the aforementioned organizational leaders].   New, fresh out-of-the-box thinking does not flow through easily.  This requires doing your own research, looking toward different venues, and actively seeking knowledge.  For me, it came in an attempt to improve my own health and wellbeing.  The average physician is essentially just doing as they are told.  We take what we learned in medical school and residency and we move forward with that knowledge and then add little bits and pieces of new information through those filters I mentioned above.

Have you ever been to a physician [or physician extender] with a concern about a possible food sensitivity; or that you may have dysbiosis or SIBO; or even that your diabetes, high blood pressure or weight gain are getting worse despite following their recommendations and treatments?   These concerns have presented to me in my office.  In your visit, with your physician:

Did you receive a satisfactory answer?

Was the response that you got to try something novel or even risqué? Something like a low-carb diet for diabetes or the offer for an advanced test to analyze for SIBO or dysbiosis?  Possibly a recommendation for dietary changes or a new exercise regimen?  Stress management techniques?  Maybe an herbal supplement for symptom relief?

Or was it more like: “You have to be stricter in your dietary choices… No more cheat meals… I don’t think you are exercising as often as you say you are… There is no such thing as SIBO, that is not a recognized condition, you have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (here’s a prescription for a new drug that just came out… don’t read the side effects profile)… You have a genetic condition and there is no cure for it… I don’t believe you are taking the medications as prescribed… There is nothing more to offer, you need gastric bypass surgery, without it you’re going to die… I am releasing you from this practice (Translation: You’re Fired), you need to find another physician.”?

I think that it is important to ask WHY, WHAT & HOW… and you always should.

  • Why did I get diabetes?  How do I reverse it?
  • Why do I have high blood pressure?  How do I treat it without medication?
  • Why can’t I lose weight?  What can I do to change it?
  • Why did I get rheumatoid arthritis?  How do I address that cause?  What are the alternatives to the medications?
  • Why do I need to take this medication?  How will it help me?  How long do I need to stay on it?  How does it work (this one is a major stumper)?  What are the side effects?

I also think that it is important for your physician to answer these questions.  No less important is that the physician not fear the phrase “I don’t know”.  That alone would be a great starting point. Imagine a conversation that goes something like this:  “I don’t know but I will refer you to someone that does”.  Unfortunately, the direction that this usually takes is just more of the same: reaching for the prescription pad, writing for something hot off the pharmaceutical shelves and seeing you back in 3 to 6 months to see how you are doing with this new regimen… Repeat!

No one is expected to have all the answers.  After all…

Not all answers will flow immediately and some may take months to figure out.

Not all individuals will respond in the same way to the same treatment recommendations, whether they be dietary, herbal, homeopathic or pharmaceutical.

The cause of one’s condition may be completely different from what caused the same condition in someone else.

Not knowing the answers can be forgiven but an unwillingness to try should not.    That is the arrogance that has been a part of the medical profession for quite some time.

  1. Physicians do not like to be questioned (this is a generalization, of course – I know some wonderful compassionate physicians that could speak to their patients all day),
  2. Physicians do not like to admit that they do not know, and
  3. Physicians certainly do not like to admit that they were wrong.

It takes an average of a decade for my profession to admit that they made a mistake and an average of another decade to correct it.  Change comes very slowly.  This is presently what is going on with the issue of saturated fats and cholesterol.  To this day the general medical community does not recognize any issues regarding gluten beyond Celiac Disease and even then they barely know how to treat it.  Autoimmunity is skyrocketing and we cannot seem to recognize the causes that are right before our eyes.  Despite being a scientific profession, we seem to be enthralled with mysticism, and we often target the wrong things when we do.   Medicine is not an exact science and the art has largely been lost.

If you have concerns regarding a condition that you may be suffering with, or maybe a loved one does, don’t hesitate to seek answers that are satisfactory to you and you should never settle for less.   It is with regret to say that many of those answers may come at personal expense (as much of the advanced testing is not fully covered by insurance) but so much can be accomplished with simple daily modifications.

In conclusion, as much as it pains me to say so, I am not a superhero.  I cannot read thoughts, heal by a mere touch of my hand, no x-ray vision and, regretfully, I cannot deflect bullets.  I can, however, listen attentively; empathize with your circumstance; theorize as to why you are suffering from certain symptoms or a disease; order appropriate tests & interpret them and offer treatment recommendations that may help you get back on your path to health that don’t involve a dozen pharmaceutical prescriptions.

Wishing you health & wellness…

JG

2 Responses to Your Doctor is No Super Hero

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    • admin Reply

      October 16, 2017 at 4:54 pm

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